America's youth recruit Elvis in the fight against Polio

Published by : Cambridge University
A rise in the number of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases has highlighted the growing trend for parents not to have their child vaccinated. Could the activities of a group of teenagers against polio in 1950s America inspire a fresh look at the effectiveness of pro-vaccine public health information campaigns?

Today, thanks to a global effort to eradicate polio, only two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) remain polio-endemic. It was a very different situation when the Salk vaccine was licensed in 1955.

In this film, released in World Immunization Week (24-30 April 2016), University of Cambridge historian Dr Stephen Mawdsley describes how the vaccine’s success was threatened in the USA by ‘vaccine hesitancy’. In 1957, as many as 30% of people still had no inoculations, and a third of all new cases were in teens.

He uncovers how young people themselves – and Elvis Presley – became the answer to the problem, in what might be the first, largest and most successful case of teen health activism of the time. The fight waged against vaccine noncompliance in 1950s America, he suggests, could provide important lessons for the world today.

Follow the link to subscribe
external link sitemap

Polio vaccine immunization immunisation vaccination Salk vaccine Jonas Salk public health Roosevelt March of Dimes teen Ed Sullivan Elvis Presley Basil O'Connor National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis Teens Against Polio Stephen Mawdsley Hound dog polio eradication Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Poliomyelitis The Ed Sullivan Show